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Active recalls on hundreds of thousands of Tennessee vehicles

News4 Investigates shows you what you need to do before buying your next car
News4 Investigates found car dealerships in Tennessee can sell many vehicles with active recalls, and they don’t have to tell you.
Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 9:58 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2022 at 6:56 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tens of millions of vehicles are recalled and taken off the roads every year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

News4 Investigates found car dealerships in Tennessee can sell many vehicles with active recalls, and they don’t have to tell you.

News4 Investigates found out what you need to know before you buy your next car, and its advice Tim Rice wants others to take after his experience last year.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful car,” Rice, who bought his dream car in 2021, a black Mercedes Benz S 580 sedan, said.

Rice couldn’t wait to get his hands on the car.

“Finding these cars is really, really difficult,” he said.

Just weeks after he brought it home, Rice received a letter in the mail alerting him to a safety recall related to the engine that could result in a crash.

“I have a wife and grandchildren. I don’t want to be in a car I don’t feel is safe,” Rice said.

In Rice’s case, the recall was issued after he bought the car, but News4 Investigates found thousands of other cases where cars are being sold with active recalls before drivers buy them, and they have no idea about it.

“The car broke down on the side of the road and it was pretty startling because the whole system shut off and I was on the freeway,” driver Jason Turnage said.

Turnage said he found out just weeks after purchasing his car it had a “stop sale” on it three months before he bought it.

“They mentioned nothing of any recalls or any safety parts,” Turnage said. “They sole me the car like it was perfect.”

“Tennessee is one of two states that has the worse auto safety laws in the country when it comes to vehicle safety recall defects,” Rosemary Shahan, President of the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), said.

Shahan said in Tennessee dealerships just have to put it somewhere in the documents that there is an unrepaired safety recall.

In most states the law requires dealerships to fix cars before they leave the lot.

“I cannot grasp that this is happening and being permitted to happen,” Rice said.

Currently, just in Nashville, more than 600,000 vehicles have open recalls on them, according to Carfax.

Here’s what you need to do so you don’t end up with a car with an active recall.

Every car has a VIN on the inside of the car door. Even if you’re looking at cars online, you can take that VIN and go to the NHTSA website and find out for free if it has any recalls.

“Insist that, whether you’re buying from a dealer on a private party that they get that safety recall fixed before you put your family in that car,” Shahan said.

Rice said he’d like to see the law in Tennessee stronger so any recalls get fixed before people get behind the wheel.

“To knowingly have vehicles that have active recalls is just wrong on so many fronts,” Rice said.

For additional resources on navigating open recalls, click for information from Consumers Checkbook.

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